Worried agriculture department officials and farmers are looking skywards hoping that it doesn’t rain for the next two weeks. Rain and hailstorm at this time of the year will not only hit the wheat yield but will also have an adverse impact on the grain quality, as it happened last year.
Expecting a bumper wheat harvest this year, the farmers and officials are keeping their fingers crossed as the Met department has predicted rain in the next few days. Even a light rain can affect the grain quality, besides delaying harvesting. Heavy rain accompanied by strong winds and hail can cause lodging of the crop (when the wheat plants fall to one side) hitting the yield.
The district has not received any rain in past fortnight. However, the border areas of the district experienced a brief spell of rain in mid-March.
High yield expected
Agriculture department officials are expecting a yield of 5,000 kg per hectare in the district provided it does not rain in the next two weeks. This yield was achieved in the district two years ago but it fell to 4,682 kg per hectare last year due to inclement weather conditions that prevailed in late March and early April.
The area under the wheat cultivation in the district is 1.88 lakh hectares and the projected production is around 9.40 lakh tonnes as against 8.80 lakh tonnes last year. Of the total projected production this year, around 6.90 lakh tonnes of wheat will make it to the grain markets for sale at the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,525 per quintal. Last year, 5.80 lakh tonnes was sold in the grain markets.
Giving reasons for the high yield this year, chief agriculture officer Balwinder Singh Chinna said the weather had by and large been ideal during the winter months. It was long winter which helped the grain quality, he added.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that it does not rain the crop is harvested. Last year too, we had a good crop, but rain and hail hit the wheat production as well as effected grain quality,” he added.
While the wheat procurement officially begins from April 1 in the state, Chinna said in Amritsar and neighbouring districts, it is expected to commence around Baisakhi. He said combine harvesters are yet to arrive in the
border areas, where even under normal circumstances harvesting begins in the second week of April.
“The delay of a few days is due to the inclement weather that prevailed in mid-March,” he said, adding that the rain and hail had caused damage to the crop in some parts of the district. He said the worst hit areas were the Ajnala and Chogawan blocks. The crop on around 5,000 acres had suffered damages between 20% and 40%, he added.
Preference for Haryana varieties
As has been the case in the past few years, this time also the farmers of the district have given preference to wheat varieties of Haryana over Punjab. Around 83% of the total area under wheat is under the “HD 2967” variety while the remaining is under “HD-3086” and “WH-1105”.
The preference for Haryana varieties is largely due to their high yield and these have better resistance to disease than the other varieties. Two years ago, the Punjab government had tried to discourage the farmers from sowing the Haryana varieties by giving threats that these may not be purchased in the grain markets by the state food and procurement agencies. However, still the farmers went ahead to sow the Haryana varieties.